Honest conversations about wellbeing and mindfulness have become a normal part of life at the QEII hospital Emergency Department in Brisbane, thanks to The Wellness Interest Group (TWIG).
TWIG is one of the 2020 ACEM Wellbeing Award winners. ‘Receiving this award helps legitimise the work we are doing at an organisational level’, says Dr Úna Harrington, Emergency Physician and a member of TWIG.
Their work has included a variety of different initiatives based on leading resources and research on the wellbeing of healthcare professionals.
Research has shown that physicians experience poor workplace nutrition, which can impact performance. Una says that food is a major focus for TWIG.
‘We have embedded The Staff Resus Trolley and Fresh Fruit Wednesdays to show staff that we appreciate them. Free food always goes down well!’
The group have also aimed to embed mindfulness as a common practice in the ED by running formal education sessions, displaying mindfulness posters and making the bathroom a calm space with no adverts for education or other events.
And it seems that the mindfulness skills are not only impacting staff but patients too.
‘Some of the biggest wins have been things like when a nurse did some deep breathing exercises with a grieving patient, which we had practiced that week in handover.’
Una and the group are also using the power of nature to increase wellbeing in the hospital setting, getting some pot plants for the tea room and partnering with the organisation Delta Therapy Dogs.
‘One of our most popular visitors is the Delta Dog Sally, who raises spirits of both staff and patients, when she comes to visit’, Una says.
Another major aspect TWIG’s work is embedding wellbeing as a core part of their education programs. They have recently made the Wellbeing Index (a paid tool by the Mayo Clinic) available to all emergency physicians and resident staff in the ED.
Getting started with wellbeing activities in the ED requires commitment and dedication. As Una explains, one of the obstacles TWIG faced was changing the attitudes and culture around the topic.
‘Starting a conversation about wellbeing can be a challenge – especially when mindfulness is seen by some as ‘mumbo jumbo’, and where system issues like bed block cannot be fixed by a piece of fruit’.
The other difficulty was funding.
‘Sustainable funding is an ongoing challenge. Whilst it is encouraging to see evolving Employee Assistance Program accessibility, there remains no regional or country-wide fund that can be accessed to run local projects’.
With the benefit of experience, Una now has some insight into how to successfully implement new wellbeing projects in the future.
‘The key is to keep these ideas achievable, sustainable and, to be honest, cost neutral if at all possible. It has also become increasingly clear that their sustainability can be optimised if you can link it back to established governance and funding structures in the ED’.
TWIG is not just focused on improving wellbeing for doctors, but for the whole ED team. They have members from all streams of ED staff and they aim to make their activities multidisciplinary events.
‘It is imperative for us to have a shared mental model for wellbeing planning. After all, in the ED we work the closest with our nurses, “wardies” and allied health teams’.
Inclusive wellbeing is creating a better environment for everybody.
‘There is no doubt that departmental and occupational wellbeing (or lack thereof) has a significant impact on our patients, and on our individual and team performance’.
More information:
Details about the ACEM Wellbeing Award and ACEM Diversity Award are available here. Nominations for both awards will open again later in 2021.

  • Wellbeing